Running Strong for American Indian Youth® 2023 Dreamstarter Loren Waters, 27, (Cherokee Nation/Kiowa Tribe) of Tulsa, Oklahoma, dream is ᏗᏂᏠᎯ ᎤᏪᏯ Project (Meet Me At The Creek Project) which aims to bring awareness to the Tar Creek Superfund Site cleanup.
“The Dreamstarter grant will support a two-part project that will bring together Indigenous environmental activists for a weekend of environmental film screenings, knowledge sharing, and community events,” she told us in her Dreamstarter application.
The event will be focused on environmental justice education.
The second part of the project will support the short documentary “ᏗᏂᏠᎯ ᎤᏪᏯ (Meet Me At The Creek)” in its distribution to film festivals and underserved Indigenous communities for film screenings.
The short documentary highlights Cherokee Nation elder Rebecca Jim as she fights to restore the “irreversibly damaged” Tar Creek.
“We hope that bringing education into the community and highlighting Rebecca’s work will inspire others to fight for clean water and the revitalization of Native culture,” said Loren.
Loren graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in environmental studies at the University of Oklahoma and since then has been telling environmental stories through film and working in the film industry.
“I aim to bring awareness to Indigenous cultures and identities through authentic and accurate storytelling rooted in community collaboration,” she told us.
“I’m passionate about telling stories focused on environmental justice, ecosystem restoration, and sustainability through an Indigenous lens and highlighting community members doing the work.”
“My work is for my community as I want to inspire youth to practice reciprocity with their environment, share their stories, and invest in their culture. ᎦᏚᎩ (Gadugi) is a Cherokee community value meaning, ‘people coming together and working to help one another.’ I bring this value with me in my work by aiming to create space and time to mentor aspiring Indigenous storytellers. I hope my work educates beyond my circles, bringing awareness to issues my communities face.”
“Our goals are to bring awareness to the Tar Creek Superfund Site cleanup efforts led by the L.E.A.D Agency and the Quapaw Nation.”
While U.S. government officials have designated Tar Creek as “irreversibly damaged,” Executive Director of L.E.A.D Agency, Rebecca Jim, refuses to accept that.
“We have a goal to foster community and strengthen the movement that already exists through L.E.A.D Agency,” said Loren. “We also hope to educate and inspire Native kids and community members to care about their culture and environment.”
Loren says her dream “is for our Cherokee and Native cultures to move forward and thrive without worrying about the environmental quality of our land.
“The Tar Creek Superfund Site is a prime example of large mining operations coming to Oklahoma, polluting the land, and then leaving. Now the community is responsible for cleaning it up.”
“I hope the long-term impact to be for the Tar Creek Superfund Site to be cleaned up and for the community to be able to swim in the creek safely again. It will make room for Indigenous communities in the area to flourish. Environmental Justice projects are needed in tribal communities because we are disproportionately affected by environmental disasters.”
Loren knows that “The ᏗᏂᏠᎯ ᎤᏪᏯ Project (Meet Me At The Creek Project)” is critical to bringing hope and inspiration to the community.
“I want for our Native community to be healthy, have clean water, know our traditions and languages, and to be seen.”
Hear Lauren share a bit more about her dream.